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Red Rock West (1993)

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Upon arriving to a small town, a drifter is mistaken for a hitman, but when the real hitman arrives, complications ensue.


John Dahl


John Dahl, Rick Dahl
3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nicolas Cage ... Michael
Craig Reay ... Jim
Vance Johnson Vance Johnson ... Mr. Johnson
Robert Apel Robert Apel ... Howard
Bobby Joe McFadden Bobby Joe McFadden ... Old Man
J.T. Walsh ... Wayne
Lara Flynn Boyle ... Suzanne
Dale Gibson ... Kurt
Ted Parks Ted Parks ... Cashier
Babs Bram Babs Bram ... Receptionist
Robert Guajardo Robert Guajardo ... Doctor
Sarah Sullivan Sarah Sullivan ... Nurse
Timothy Carhart ... Deputy Greytack
Dan Shor ... Deputy Bowman
Dennis Hopper ... Lyle


When a promised job for Texan Michael fails to materialise in Wyoming, Mike is mistaken by Wayne to be the hitman he hired to kill his unfaithful wife, Suzanne. Mike takes full advantage of the situation, collects the money and runs. During his getaway, things go wrong, and soon get worse when he runs into the real hitman, Lyle. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


...All Roads Lead To Intrigue. See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and violence, and for sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

14 May 1993 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Conspiració a Red Rock West See more »

Filming Locations:

Texas Canyon, Arizona, USA See more »


Box Office


$8,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,562, 30 January 1994

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


John Dahl named Dennis Hopper's character "Lyle from Dallas" after the director's first guitar, a Lyle guitar. See more »


When Michael Williams is leaving the ranch after fighting Lyle he is clearly seen tucking his gun into the back of his pants, yet in the next shot he still has the gun in his right hand. See more »


Suzanne: Have you ever been married?
Michael Williams: No.
Suzanne: It does strange things to people.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Special Thanks: Mom & Dad See more »


Written by Dwight Yoakam
Performed by Dwight Yoakam
Courtesy of Reprise Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

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User Reviews

Enthralling criminal goings-on in a small Western town, as the lead is caught between a Red Rock and a hard place.
22 June 2010 | by johnnyboyzSee all my reviews

John Dahl's Red Rock West is a neat, taut, stripped down piece of cut-and-thrust film-making without gimmickry nor a single false string attached. In a current contemporary world of American film-making, and one that was almost certainly predominant at the time of Red Rock West's inception, how wonderful it is to uncover a film that refrains from the over indulgence of extravagance and the ideology that awe is built on a foundation of overkill and visuals. That's not to say Red Rock West is without extravagance nor awe, such is Dahl's ability, that the film is full of a number of various incidences and twists that are exactly these things and gotten across by way of little more than a glance from one of the character's or an individual cut of the camera. When we hark back to America's independent cinematic boom of the late 1980s and going on into the early 1990s, certainly a boom that saw a number of films and individual directors both honoured and recognised on the European film circuit at the top level in a series of Golden Palm nominations, the displaying of Red Rock West shows we must not glance over the name of Dahl when speaking of both the films and directors of that era, namely: the Coen Brothers; Steven Soderburgh; Spike Lee and Tarantino, et al.

The film revolves around Nicolas Cage's character named Michael Williams, an ex-Marine of American nationality down on his luck and strapped for money in the dusty outback of Wyoming. He lives out of his car; uses random road side troughs full of water as makeshift sinks and struggles to find work, the latest failing being a construction site job that doesn't come through, although later on, he'll find ample opportunity at constructing something: a monstrosity of a scenario for himself. Unbeknownst to us at the time, he's going into the misadventure he'll come to have with a prior tragedy of having served time in the Vietnam War, but suffering during this stretch at the hands of a missile attack on a base in Lebanon he was positioned at which forced him into enduring a glut of both chaos and death. The event that may very well lend itself to Williams' dishevelled and down-beat tone and attitude, something Cage pulls off in that naturalistic manner he's done so on occasion since, shares eerie parallels with what will come to unfold around him as another glut of death and chaos unfolds around a man who has signed up for something you only realise you don't want to be anywhere near when it gets ugly as 'wrong place – wrong time' scenario once again kicks in.

The devilish premise sees Williams pretend to be the Texan hit-man an apparent bar owner named Wayne (Walsh) called for some days ago so as to do some local dirty-work he wants taken care of. His looming over a seated Cage whilst in the office an early establishing of power, the sort of power that he'll come to have over him as Williams is forced throughout into proverbially dancing to the tune of others. But rather than eliminate the target, Wayne's wife played by Lara Flynn Boyle, Williams warns her of the predicament and that her marriage ought quite clearly be an item of concern form here on in. Once all is said and done, the real hit-man in Dennis Hopper's Lyle shows up in jet black Texan attire and similarly coloured car more resembling a hearse than anything else, whilst developments and complications in exactly who it is the chief of police is in the whole area open up.

For Cage's character, and like in most good film noir when dealing with the down-trodden lead whom treads a fine line between right and wrong, the persistent idea of torn morals floats to the surface relatively quickly and consistently in Red Rock West. In just observing the premise, the notion of Williams illegally accepting the offer of being paid to kill someone before refraining from doing it when confronted with the innocent figure of Wayne's wife, Dahl highlights his character's soon-to-be prominent ever shifting; ever changing attitudes to what crime infused activity is playing out around him. Throughout, Williams lies; shoots; kills and steals but additionally saves; offers salvation and actually avoids violence on several occasions when straight forward murder would have offered a simple way out of a predicament. Given this, Dahl expertly manoeuvres Williams from one town in the form of Red Rock to another and then back over the border again, a sort of physical flitting from one place to another in what is a physical manifestation of both the above theories of a film noir's male lead as well as Cage's character's constantly ambiguous hopping from justified in his actions to not as so.

Red Rock West moulds a fascinating, and quite terrifying at times, tale out of all these elements; combining a number of items such as double-crosses; multiple identities and intense connections characters have with one another, the sorts that they're forced into forging before later being asked what they truly mean to them. Dahl additionally, and in a very basic sense, taps into a certain idea of post-war disillusionment through his lead in Williams' disconnection from the rest of society seeing him inhabit a desolate and often incomprehensible rural locale in which he just about scrapes by. This, as an old war injury refrains him from making any true advancement in a chosen field of work. Red Rock West is a tight, gripping piece; the sort that arrives with a steady and effective eye on a variety of items all the while under the control of a steady, focused hand.

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